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rights, freedoms and repression |
Sunday July 01, 2007 17:52 by Shell to Sea
Bellanaboy, Friday June 29th 2007
In Erris, protests continue every day at the site of the proposed refinery at Bellanaboy, County Mayo.
Last Friday, June 29th, was the second anniversary of the imprisonment of the Rossport Five. The day saw the continuing of the operation to strip the surface peat away from the Bellanaboy refinery site, and as is now normal, local people protesting were joined by supporters of the Shell to Sea campaign from other parts of Ireland and abroad.
As usual, the Garda response to the protests was brutal. One protester was arrested and many more were assaulted. Gardaí also threw activists into the deep ditches near the Bellanaboy site.
Videos of the protests on Friday morning can be seen here: http://ie.youtube.com/watch?v=kAXKHu3_bKo
or check www.youtube.ie/shelltohell
The Gardaí were said to be surprised at the number of protesters at the site on Friday morning, while many people present complained that the police were suffering from the effects of the night before. Protesters commented on the noticeable smell of alcohol coming from a lot of the officers, and their generally dishevelled appearance, as well as their aggressive and juvenile behaviour. One garda, when confronted with the fact that his behaviour was not acceptable, loudly declared "I'm allowed to drink when I'm off duty!".
Many people are still angry with the Gardaí over their treatment of a local landowner whose property they trespassed onto to allow Shell's contractors to install a security cabin near the pier at Pollotomais, across the estuary from Rossport. The portacabin has recently been removed by Shell, but not before legal action had to be threatened.
Many local people accuse the Gardaí of intimidation of the elderly landowner, putting him under such stress that he had to be admitted to hospital. His family have said that he has been upset by a series of incidents including visits by up to six gardaí to the house. Officers asked him questions and video-taped the responses. However, the Gardaí have denied there was any pressure or intimidation involved.
Over the last few months thousands of tons of surface peat have been removed from the refinery site at Bellanaboy and dumped 11KM away, in advance of the Environmental Protection Agency decision on whether the refinery will receive a licence to operate.
New minister with responsibility for the scheme, Eamon Ryan, has been asked for a meeting with local people and other supporters of Shell to Sea, but so far has not responded. In the coming weeks and months, it is expected that more people from outside the area will join the protests.
One of the Rossport Five, Micheál Ó Seighin said recently:
"We welcome people taking non-violent direction to stop Shell's scheme. This has never been a purely local issue. It has always had national and international dimensions. Not only are people concerned entitled to protest, they are obliged to stand up for what is right.
many people commented on the smell of alcohol from the Gardaí on duty
A shell contractor with a radio observed the protests from a jeep protected by Gardaí